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Friday April 19, 2024

IHC rejects Zulfi’s plea for lifting travel ban

By Faisal Kamal Pasha
June 15, 2018

ISLAMABAD: When Zulfi Bukhari sought an interim relief from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against federal government’s order barring him to travel out of country, IHC Justice Aamer Farooq said that he needed not an interim relief as ‘My order takes two days to reach while you’ll get relief in half an hour’.

IHC bench in the petition of Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari alias Zulfi Bukhari, a close friend of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, has issued notices to the secretary Ministry of Interior, Director General (DG) Immigration & Passports, DG Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) through its chairman directing them to submit reply by June 21.

IHC bench has also directed a section officer of the Ministry of Interior who deals with Exit Control List (ECL) to personally appear before the court. In the petition Zulfi Bukhari has mentioned his residential address as Mayfair London, the same area where Nawaz Sharif sons reside.

Zulfi Bukhari was stopped at Noor Khan Airbase on June 11 by the immigration officials due to his name being placed on a list barring him to leave the country. Zulfi Bukhari while challenging federal government’s order barring him to leave the country due to a pending NAB inquiry, has contended that the travel restrictions will adverselyaffect his business in London.

In a petition through his counsel Sikander Bashir Mohmand advocate, Bukhari said that National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on February 20, 2018 issued him a call up notice for inquiry. According to the petitioner, in the notice it was said that an offence was committed by setting up offshore companies in British Virgin Island.

The offshore companies have been revealed in Panama Papers. Notice says that he (Zulfi Bukhari) is in possession of information/evidence related to the offence and hence need to appear before a NAB investigation officer (IO).

According to the petitioner, this call up notice was delivered at his Islamabad house where he normally does not reside. Through this first call up notice, the petitioner was asked to appear before the NAB IO on February 27. Petitioner’s father received this letter on Feb 26 and replied to NAB that his son is a British national. He is not in the country and will not return before four weeks.

Thereafter a second call up notice was issued to the petitioner and it was also delivered to the same address. In the second call up notice, petitioner was asked to appear before NAB IO on March 15. Petitioner’s father then forwarded this notice to him in London and he saw this for the first time on March 17. Petitioner then wrote a letter to NAB informing them that he is not a resident of Pakistan and categorically stated that he is not possessing any information/evidence regarding commission of any offence. NAB however issued a third call up notice.

This time petitioner (Zulfi) responded through his solicitor. In reply the petitioner challenged jurisdiction of NAB to initiate any inquiry or issue call up notices due to the fact that the petitioner never remained a public office holder nor entrusted with any public funds ever; being British citizen, his business interests primarily lie outside Pakistan; there is no allegation against him for any grievance of public at large. As per the petitioner, this reply was duly served on to NAB Islamabad and officials of the anti-graft body verbally confirmed the receipt. Thereafter, there was no correspondence between him and NAB. On June 11, he was in Islamabad and planned to travel to Saudi Arabia for performing Umra along with his close and trusted friend Imran Khan. To the surprise of the petitioner whilst at Islamabad airport, he was verbally informed by FIA officials that he was barred from exiting the country. He did not know whether it was black list or exit control list but he was barred from travelling abroad. This was the first time petitioner came to know about any such decision by the federal government. It was orally communicated to the petitioner and no reason was provided in support.

After a considerable delay over airport, Ministry of Interior wrote a letter to the FIA through which the petitioner was one time permitted to travel for performing Umra. Petitioner contended that he is aggrieved by the decision of federal government which is aimed at curtailing his liberty and free movement. He contended that the orders of the federal government to disallow him travelling outside the country are in violation of fundamental rights and liable to be set aside declaring void ab initio.

Petitioner has prayed to the court to issue directions for removal of his name from ECL or blacklist or any other manifestation imposing travel restrictions on him declaring such order illegal, unlawful and void ab initio.